State agency accused of equal-pay violations run almost entirely by women

Did the women in charge at the Maryland Insurance Administration short-change the women who work there? That's the unspoken question raised by the lawsuit brought on April 15 by U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against the Maryland Insurance Administration (MIA). The EEOC alleges the MIA, since December 2009, willfully flouted the Equal Pay Act by paying its women investigators and enforcement officers less than it paid men performing the same jobs. While a male took charge at the agency early this year—Alfred Redmer, who previously held the post in the early 2000s—women have served as commissioner since January 2010, just after the alleged conduct began.

Today, not only are five of the MIA's seven associate commissioners women (one position is vacant, and a man occupies another in an acting capacity), but so are the deputy commissioner and the associate deputy commissioner. Women also serve as chief compliance and enforcement officer, human-resources director, chief information officer, chief administrator and chief investigator for life and health insurance, director of company licensing, chief financial analyst, chief insurance examiner, chief market conduct examiner, and producer licensing manager.

Last August, Tony Ondrusek at ifawebnews.com (which bills itself as "the nation's homepage for insurance industry news") address this women-in-charge issue at MIA in a post entitled, "Is MIA leadership a 'girls-only' club?" He penned it after some of his readers got in touch, suggesting that "for the last few years, at least, the executive leadership of MIA is skewed to women, with men getting the short shift at the department." So Ondrusek went to the MIA's organizational chart, and found that "of the 21 positions directly under and appointed by the insurance commissioner, 18 are filled by women and two by men. That's an executive-level staffing ratio of 87% women and 13% men." He also found that, since 2011, the recently replaced commissioner, Therese Goldsmith, "appointed or promoted women to top executive level positions 92% of the time, and appointed or promoted men only 8% of the time."

With women having already thoroughly shattered the glass ceiling at MIA, no wonder the agency's public-affairs director, Vivian Laxton, told City Paper that the MIA "strongly disputes the allegations" brought by the EEOC and that "the case will be vigorously defended." Yet surely the EEOC, as the nation's enforcer of equal-pay laws, doesn't bring such cases lightly, and what it's alleging is that an agency almost exclusively run by women has willfully paid the men in its employ more than the women for the same work. It's a remarkable claim.

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